Nicole Kipar
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During the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, French fashion took over the leading role in Europe. This was caused by France having developed into the main political and cultural power, thus turning French fashion into an equally "absolutistic" regime. During the period from 1660 onwards, fashion in France, according to the absolutistic ideal, became rigid, ordered and strict in its do's and don'ts of etiquette. About 10 years after Louis XIV's accession to the throne and maturity in the year 1661, the entirety of Europe was under the dictatorship of the French royal fashion in about 1670. From that date on European rulers strove to imitate the powerful Sun King, they even lost national differences and diversities in fashion, thus French fashion became world fashion. 

After the Thirty Years War, when the English King Charles I had been executed and the Puritans under Cromwell reigned; when Louis XIV was still merely a child at the signing of the Peace of Westphalia; when the numerous municipalities of Germany were in ashes and ruins after the horror of the 30s Years War and possessed neither a political nor a cultural centre; when the Spanish and Austrian rulers were still clinging to the old fashioned Spanish court costumes of the 16th century; there was no court in Europe left who could possibly take over the leading role in fashion. Thus a different type of model was looked upon in the 1650s and 60s. The Netherlands, and particularly the rich, powerful and independent Burghers. There are numerous paintings of the 1640s-1660s by Dutch artists of every day life scenes amongst the Dutch upper middle class, which you will find in the Period Galleries chapter under Dutch Paintings. The costume of the Dutch was now made of colourful velvets and silks, decorated with many ribbons.

1650 - 1670 

During these years after the 30s Years War, the fashion for men changed considerably, from the militaristic uniform style to overboarding gaudiness, which, in my humble opinion, bordered at the ridiculous. The coat shrank towards a tiny, open doublet, with sleeves reaching only to the elbows, and extremely short, ending high above the waist, very similar to the modern "Bolero" jacket or the Spanish Matador's jacket. The breeches became that baggy and full, that they looked like wide skirts. These so-called Rhinegraves are said to have been a Dutch or German invention: the trouser legs, extremely baggy and using a large amount of fabric, were gathered below the knees with lace frills, the so-called Canions. This fashion went to the extreme that men wore indeed skirts, full skirts over breeches which led to their name Petticoat breeches. Another characteristic of this fashion was that the petticoat breeches were worn by the fashionable gentlemen of the time hanging loosely low at his hips, so that it almost looked as if he was about to lose his pants. 

Yet, the Rhinegraves were extremely popular at the court of the young Louis XIV, and were worn by the young and old, and they went finally completely out of fashion only as late as in the 1680s. Between the extremely short doublet and the low-hanging breeches was the equally full shirt to be seen. Sometimes this long shirt even became the most important fashion item of the entire costume. 

Furthermore, the costume was decorated with numerous ribbon bows at doublet, breeches and shoes, namely most prominently at the waistband of the breeches, the shoulders, and the bottom hem of the jacket. In a surviving tailor's list of the 1650s is a note about the amount of ribbon bows which are needed for a fashionable outfit: about 500-600 ribbon bows, which are called galants in French. 

But the uniform was once more about to influence and change civilian fashion considerably. When permanent regiments were formed, the time of the freedom of choice of soldiers' clothing was over. Before, a soldier was usually serving for and paid by, different armies, but now the necessity arose to be able to differentiate and identify the regiments in peace times and also in war time. Therefore the uniforms for the common soldier became a demand, while the Officers were still able to choose their clothing freely. This development was enabled by the building of large cloth manufactories in France with the technicalities to make and provide large amounts of fabric in uniform colours and with the same quality throughout. Anyway, the freedom of choice for Officers was cut down as well after a while and they had to abide and dress in the uniform of the regiment, including of course the most high ranking leader of the troops: the King. Thus the uniform coat became presentable and was adapted by male fashion. The soldiers' coat transformed into the uniform coat around 1670 by the standardisation of cut, colours, decorations (buttons, braid, etc.) 

One very important item in the identification of the different regiments was the facings fabric. The lining, which was always in a different colour as the outside cloth, was initially only visible at the turned back cuffs; only much later, when the cut changed and collars were added, were those made in the colour of the facings as well. The skirts of the coat, which were turned back by the cavalry and this manner was imitated by the infantry, showed off the facings colour as well. There were regulations for every regiment regarding the colours and shapes of embroidery, braid and cords, with which the higher ranking coats were decorated and the buttonholes were lined. For extensive information on Uniforms, visit the Kirke's Lambs Regiment chapter. 


In the course of the metamorphosis of the soldier's coat into a uniform coat and later the King's official state coat and thus took its important place in fashion, did also the cut of this garment change. The coat, which was rather wide and shapeless in the beginning, became more and more fitting to the figure at the upper body, tight at the waist, so that this coat was named Justaucorps, which means "just at the body", developing into a tight fitting, tailored garment, into this extremely elegant and flattering piece of clothing. 

This liaison of uniform and fashion led to the influence of rationalism in male fashion, and also the sleeves, which had played such a prominent role in 16th century fashion with their padded and extreme vastness, were turned into simple, tubular sleeves. Those tubular shaped sleeves came into fashion around 1665, when Louis XIV started to adopt this shape for his mourning garments after his father in law's death, Philip IV of Spain. This sleeve shape has been fashionable since then until modern times. The cuffs of the sleeves in the 17th century were very broad and wide and turned back, decorated with buttons and braids. The coats' wide skirts had now pockets, a new and very practical invention. The slits in the skirts had a practical reason as well: the slit in the back was necessary to prevent sitting on one's coat skirts when riding, the side slits to allow the smallsword through. 

Around 1685 was a change in the way of how to carry one's weapon: the sword hanger, or baldrick, worn hanging across one shoulder, was replaced by a sword belt around the hips. This change took place first in the military, and then this fashion was gradually adopted into civilian clothing as well. But first of all, in the course of this development, it became fashionable in civilian dress, to wear the sword belt, or bandelier in French, underneath the coat. Thus the coat's skirt side seams had to be left open, so that the rapier or smallsword could slide through. 

The open side seam had at first a small row of buttons, then, when the skirts became very full around 1700, one button at the waist, where the seam opened, and an inset of folds, so that the skirt didn't open and had an even more elegant cut and shape. 

The large lace collar, which was worn during the first half of the 17th century, became smaller at the back and the sides after the 1650s, because the hair was worn much longer. In the end only the strips of fabric remained, which were folded over at the front. These strips, or front edges of the former large collar, became longer, until the collar had developed into the cravat. These cravats, which occurred in the 1670s side by side with the collars, were knotted in the front and held in place by silk ribbon bows in the 1680s, together with the silk ribbon bows at the shoulder the last remains of the former, overflowing ribbon decoration. These last ribbons were to vanish as well during the last decade of the 17th century. The so-called Steinkerke or Steenkerk appeared, once again after having been seen first amongst the military, around 1692, and this cravat fashion's characteristics are the two long ends of the fine cravat being simply gathered in the front and very elegantly and casually fastened by slipping the two ends through one buttonhole. 

The waistcoat was given a new name too: la veste, the vest. It was always worn underneath the justaucorps, and very different to the vest which is worn nowadays, the modern waistcoat derives its cut from the 18th century vest. The vest of the 17th century was at first made out of the same fabric as the coat and had almost the same cut, but it was not flared like the cut. Around 1690 it became fashionable to make the vest from very precious and colourful brocades or brocaded and patterned silks, and to give the large turned back cuffs of the justaucorps facings of the vest fabric, while the coat was then made from a plain fabric. The vest was nearly as long as the coat, maybe only an inch shorter, tight fitting in the waist as well, and with long, tubular shaped narrow sleeves, though without any cuffs. It had pockets too and slits, but without the additional insets which the coat later had at the side seams. 

At the same time, when the change in the upper body garments occurred, did the breeches change too. The formerly fashionable petticoat breeches didn't fit the new, tailored coat at all anymore, and in 1682 an article was published in the first French fashion journal Mercure de France stating clearly that "canons and rhinegraves are impossible". Now the voluminous rhinegraves were finally and forever exchanged with knee-length breeches of normal width. But since the breeches almost completely vanished underneath the knee-length Justaucorps and vest, and were furthermore covered by the stockings, which were rolled over the breeches up to above the knee, the breeches were the most unimportant item of clothing of the entire male costume and thus very plain. 

The overcoat was surely no longer an item of any fashionable importance and was neglected, especially since the justaucorps was always worn together with the vest, both being lined, this made the overcoat almost always unnecessary. The sleeveless cloak was only worn any longer when travelling, and the only overcoat was the so-called Brandenbourg with sleeves, which was buttoned at the front. This overcoat had a broad collar, which was also to be buttoned at the front, the garment wasn't shaped to the figure at all, had a baggy, wide appearance and was always longer than the tight fitting coat, the justaucorps.

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